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Stories: Amanda

Socially distanced, but virtually united for brain cancer research

As the sun broke through the blanket of morning clouds on Sun., May 3, Amanda Howes set off for the 13th annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk. The pitter-patter of footsteps was quieter than usual, but their purpose was just as meaningful. This year’s event united all the hallmarks of past walks, like coming together with family and friends for music, remembrance and camaraderie, but with a twist.

Due to stay at home orders and concerns about COVID-19, the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk was held virtually this year. Participants were still encouraged to lace up their shoes and walk—wherever they were—and video messages, music and performances popped up on social media throughout the day.

Amanda, the honored speaker for 2020, filmed a video with her husband and two young daughters from their backyard to share with their fellow walkers. Rather than echoing through loudspeakers at Seattle Center—as it would have in the past—her voice reached participants across Seattle virtually to start things off.

“My daughter was like, ‘Mommy, you said hope so many times,’” says Amanda. “But hope is the best word. Everyone needs to know how far the Ivy Center has come and all the amazing work they've done. But there's still a long way to go.” Funds raised by the walk support The Ben & Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, which Amanda and many others have turned to for treatment.

When Amanda moved to Seattle in 2009, she had already endured multiple surgeries to treat her brain cancer. She knew she needed to find excellent care to continue monitoring her condition, so when she heard about research at The Ivy Center while watching the news, she made an appointment right away.

After a small growth in her tumor, she endured six months of simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation. Thanks to the efforts of her care team—and innovative research funded by donors like you—Amanda has been cancer-free since 2009.

During all of her time at Swedish and The Ivy Center, Amanda couldn’t help but notice the posters for the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk that lined the hospital’s walls. She joined the 2nd annual walk in 2009 and has returned each year since with team We Heart Brains, a group of family and friends determined to find a cure. Looking back now, she marvels at how far the walk has come from its early days on the track at Mercer Island High School.

“It’s great to see how much it grows every year,” Amanda says. “With survivors and families getting together and more people learning about research, it’s a special event.”

Amanda’s extended family was not able to walk with her because of social distancing, but a few neighbors stepped up to join her neighborhood stroll from a safe distance. Despite the circumstances, the walk did what it always does: it brought people together. “Things were a bit different this year,” Amanda says. “But overall it went really well.”

Although the world feels a little less certain right now, the support for brain cancer research hasn’t wavered. “We can’t wait,” she says. “We need to find a cure.”

You can still support patients like Amanda and further research at www.braincancerwalk.org.